The RQ-21 Blackjack is now capable of launching small, precise munitions for attacks.

The Boeing Insitu Integrator drone, also known as Blackjack RQ-21, showcased its ability to launch small precision-guided Shryke munitions in a recent demonstration within the US military. This is part of an effort to equip the relatively small Integrator drone with kinetic capabilities, which has made significant strides in recent months.

On December 12, Insitu announced the successful demonstration and shared video footage of the Integrator, with the registered topm N76NT, carrying out the tests. The exact location and time of the demonstration are unclear. The test involved launching two GPS-guided inert Shryke munitions from the Integrator, directed at specific targets on the ground. This demonstration was conducted in collaboration with Corvid and L3Harris Technologies.

Justin Pearce, Insitu’s Vice President of Programs, Engineering, and Flight, stated that the two rounds of ammunition were installed perfectly in the Integrator’s CG (center-of-gravity) and that advanced navigation, guidance, and payload delivery systems were demonstrated during several mission sorties.

The Integrator drone is a long-endurance, multi-mission unmanned aerial vehicle with a wingspan of 16 feet and a length of 8.2 feet. It features a maximum endurance of more than 24 hours and a ceiling of 19,500 feet, capable of reaching a maximum horizontal speed of more than 90 knots. The UAV is typically launched by a tow catapult and recovered by a line and hook system. It can also be adapted for vertical takeoff using an additional transport system and comes in an extended range setting.

The modular payload capability of the Integrator allows it to house various sensors for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) missions, as well as signals intelligence. In addition, it features a sensor turret with electro-optical and infrared cameras under its nose.

The recent demonstration featured the launch of Shryke munitions, developed by Corvid Technologies with L3Harris, and equipped with L3Harris’ MIL-STD-1316 Electronic Safety Arm and Arm Device (ESAD). The successful test highlighted the Integrator’s capability to deliver munitions within 1 to 2 meters of the target.

The announcement of the successful test comes after Insitu formally announced its plans to weaponize the Integrator drone in September. The company has been working to integrate small munitions with the Integrator, as documented in Navy images showing the drone’s payload module.

Insitu previously utilized the Blackjack to deliver inert kinetic payloads for a US Navy test program, dropping “Northrop Grumman Hatchet substitutes” and other unspecified munitions. The integration of small munitions with the drone continues, with testing of additional ammunition produced by different manufacturers.

In October, it was revealed that Integrator will be combined with loitering munitions manufactured by Australian firm Innovaero for a longer-range indirect strike capability. Development and testing of the Integrator/Innovaero loitering munition pair will continue through 2023.

Equipping the Integrator with kinetic strike capability has significant advantages for the US military, as well as its other operators, including the Australian military and the Canadian military. Offering the drone kinetic capabilities could make it a more attractive option for the Marines, as well as existing users such as the Navy and special operations units.

The ability to deploy small warheads with precision using a high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle at a comparatively low cost is a significant capacity. Integrator’s capability to operate from austere land environments and ships with a small logistical footprint makes it an attractive option for various mission sets, such as opportunistic strikes, force protection, and limited close air support in lower threat environments.

As the integration of kinetic capabilities with the Integrator continues, it remains to be seen how the US military and its allied forces will utilize the drone in future operations and missions. The ongoing development of the drone’s capabilities and the potential for increased operational flexibility highlight its significance as a vital asset in modern warfare.